Here's Why You Hate the Word 'Moist'
(Except when it comes to cake.)
Moist. It’s the first word that comes to mind when you think about rainy days, puppy noses, and perfectly-baked cakes. But a huge chunk of the population absolutely despises the word. Say “moist” around them and you'll be met with disgust, complete with arms flailing and gagging noises. This fear and loathing for the M-word has recently been the subject of articles in publications from The New Yorker to Slate—even episodes of New Girl and How I Met Your Mother.
And thanks to a post last week on the science blog Nautilus, a fascinating study from last year about why we hate "moist" is getting well-deserved new buzz. In it, researchers from Oberlin College and Trinity University ran three different experiments to test how around 800 participants reacted to hearing the word “moist” in various contexts. Their finding: About 20% of subjects equated it to hearing nails on a chalkboard. Specifically, it was the “disgusting bodily functions” associated with the word that turned people off.
“It reminds people of sex and vaginas,” explained one participant.
Indeed, when the researchers paired “moist” with sexual words and, oddly, unrelated positive words (like "paradise"), people had the most adverse reactions to it. Thankfully for bakeries everywhere, when it was combined with culinary words like “cake” and “delicious,” moistness was considered much more pleasant. Which is something Coach on New Girl clearly agrees with.
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